Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Karawatha; Mansfield

It is early afternoon. The clouds are white, no threat of rain, in a winter-blue sky. I keep my legs moving, one after the other, meditation in movement. If I keep moving, I won't have to think, and if I do think, my thoughts are ordered, decent, not jostling and crowding as they do when I sit at my desk in the basement.

It is ten past one or thereabouts. The scent of eucalypts is not as heady as it would be in the height of summer, but this means it does not smother the earthy aroma of the leaf litter and broken wood that will grow until it fuels a fire that will regenerate the forest. None of the trees is tall or old. Many bear the marks of last year's fire.

It is late July, the depths of winter. I have to take off my sweater. My feet tramp out the kilometres, one in front of the other. It's easy walking, a gravel path, a neatly packed earth track, stretches of builder's sand. I have to take off my sweater; I am bothered by how hot I feel. I have had a virus, on and off for three months. My head is heavy and spins with the rising heat, fuelled by exertion. I am walking fast, not stopping to look.

I have seen a dry sclerophyll forest enough times to know what is in it. I will stop if something catches my eye: a lordly kookaburra, a flash of movement as a lizard rushes to escape my approach, a parrot blazing across the sky. I will stop if I hear something interesting: the call of a cockatoo (perhaps an elusive black one), the noise of something hiding in the long grass, slitherings.

I walk for an hour and a half or maybe two hours. I do not know how far I have gone.


People go to and fro. Mostly they look at the path. I am going to and fro.

There are rosellas in the tree by the park toilets. I am thinking that it is curious that they are here. It is a hazy, overcast day, quite cold, and they seem incongruous. I still think of parrots as being denizens of the tropics, when in truth they are here as a matter of geography rather than climate as such.

The creek is filthy, brown and reeking. All our streets, from here to the river and down the other way into the southside to where precisely I don't know, drain their surface water into the creek.

When there is a storm, if it is big enough, the field floods and becomes a lake. The water looks clean and inviting, but I have never seen anyone swim in the lake or the creek.

I have never seen anything swim in the creek. There are ducks but they walk on the parkland, eating plants, rather than try to find anything living in the water. It's a pity they don't eat mosquitoes. Further downstream, where the creek feeds wetlands, a huge population of birds is supported by it, so it must have life, but this stretch is filthy, home to old paint cans, tyres, shit I wouldn't be surprised. You could pitch a body into the creek, some dark night, and no one would notice or care.

This land does not support so many easily. It is wearing out. We are proud of its natural beauty but not so proud that we do not happily destroy it, cut it down, plough it under, poison it and bury it in our piss, shit and plastic bags.

Zenita is babbling happily as I push the twins along the path. She is waving her hand, pointing, I don't know what at. Naughtyman is sick, slumped in his seat, his throat sore. He wants to be home with his mother. Get over it, I want to tell him. You'll feel like that most of your life, that you would be better off back in the womb than doing what others make you. None of it will be worthwhile. None of it will feel better than just being safe, warm and unbothered.

The sky is entirely clouded over, grey and unfriendly. In England, this would mean drizzle to follow, but here it doesn't. It won't rain today and it won't rain tomorrow. In the summer, it will rain hard through our sweltering nights, but today it will not rain at all.


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